Tuesday, January 23, 2007


PEERing Over the Canyon

Over at the blog of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), it is apologizing for any misunderstanding it might have caused because its "December 28, 2006 press release, 'How Old is the Grand Canyon? Park Service Won’t Say,' was not as clear as it should have been."

Once we became aware that the press release was being misinterpreted, we took a couple steps to amend this error:
1.) PEER revised the original release on our website, deleting the problematic first sentence. [“Grand Canyon National Park is not permitted to give an official estimate of the geologic age of its principal feature, due to pressure from Bush administration appointees.”]

Although the information was not included in the release, that sentence was based on the fact that since 2004 (until this recent controversy erupted) we heard from reporters that the superintendent’s office at GCNP had answered media questions about the age of the canyon with either a “no comment” or by referring the reporter to Headquarters.

2.) We distributed a second press release that laid out clearly the Park Service’s position on the age of the Grand Canyon, and posted the NPS official statement on our website.

It’s significant to note that the public controversy surrounding our release finally stimulated the National Park Service, for the first time, to go on the record saying it did not endorse the content of Tom Vail’s book, Grand Canyon: A Different View. As with all other statements on this issue, of course, it came out of HQ, and not the park.
Quite apart from the question of how one goes about "revising" a press release that has already been released (is it like a consumer product recall? -- how many newspapers did they have returned to the dealership to have the print revised?), I can't for the life of me figure out what the clarification is clarifying. Is the Grand Canyon National Park permitted to give an official estimate of the geologic age of the canyon or do they, as the "clarification" might still be read, have to, "[a]s with all other statements on this issue," refer inquiries to HQ? Or is it that PEER is withdrawing the claim that it is the Bush Administration that requires that Park officials dodge the issue and, instead, that it is just the usual bureaucratic work avoidance that is at play here? It sure would have helped if they had said just how they thought the press release was being misinterpreted.

Should we look forward to the clarification of the clarification?
Via Evolving Thoughts.


This is one of those "non-apology apologies" that have become almost automatic. As someone wrote in part on the PEER site that you linked to:

Let’s face it: in that December 28 press release, PEER made a howling error. The best course would have been to acknowledge the error, apologize, and then move on. Unfortunately, PEER first attempted to explain away the error and to deflect attention from the error by discussing the irrelevant issue of the creationist book, and now has followed-up with a weak “clarification” that even attempts to put blame on a few readers of the press release who, we are told, “misinterpreted” the release.

In brief, upon finding itself in a hole, PEER kept on digging.

If PEER wanted to comment about creationist literature being sold in national parks, perhaps they should have confined their release to that issue and not included unsupported rumors.
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